Despite thunderstorms, hundreds of people went to Chicago's Federal Plaza on July 13 for a vigil held in honor of the one-year anniversary of the death of Sandra Bland, a Black woman and Chicagoland native who died in police custody.
Women's All Point Bulletin and Black Lives Matter Chicago hosted the candlelight vigil. Attendees received candles and balloons that were later released. Numerous signs and shirts were displayed with sayings such as "#SandraSpeaks" and "Justice for Sandra."
The vigil commenced with a group prayer and a few words from Bland's family about other victims of police brutality such as Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd, and Eric Garner, among others. As the vigil went on, several artists sang songs and recited poems dedicated to Bland's memory. In addition, Bland's family performed pieces devoted to her, with a poem from her niece and a song from another relative that echoed the lyrics "Sandi, I love you."
The night was filled with unity and togetherness as Bland's family asked attendees to hug one another and provide words of encouragement. At one point, hundreds of people were seen with arms around one another, singing Bland's favorite gospel tunes.
Bland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, said that Bland "fought for unity and justice."
Toward the end of the night, Bland's family put the spotlight on gender violence and allowed police-brutality victim Cassandra Feuerstein to tell her side regarding an experience with Skokie's police department. During her speech, she accused Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez of turning a blind eye to police-brutality victims.
The vigil ended similarly to the way it started, with a group prayer, a balloon release and a few words from Bland's mother. "Even though she is not here with us physically, her light is still shining all over this place," Reed-Veal said. She also made sure to thank attendees for staying so late in the evening and encouraged those who are not involved to do whatever they can. "You do not have to be silent because everybody has something to bring to the table," Reed-Veal said.